<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Kobe Bryant with Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant could pass Michael Jordan on all-time scoring list Friday

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Just 31 more points.

After scoring 32,292 points in his career, Kobe Bryant just needs 31 more to pass Michael Jordan for third on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list. He could do that Friday night in San Antonio (although if Kawhi Leonard is cleared to play as expected it will be tough). If not then Kobe will almost certainly pass MJ Sunday in Minnesota.

Kobe tried to downplay it, as he often does when it comes to comparisons with him and Jordan — even though Kobe has clearly patterned a lot of his game, and how he works off the court as a professional and leader, off Jordan. Of course, Kobe said what mattered was the rings, not the accolades.

But becoming No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list has to rank high on Kobe’s long list of personal accomplishments.

It speaks to a long career played at a very high level, a carer where virtually every team he was on leaned on him (even this year at age 36 coming off a couple serious surgeries). It speaks to a lot of time in the gym, time in the weight room, time in the training room to get your body through 19 NBA seasons and still be playing at an elite level. It speaks to a ridiculous level of dedication to the game, to his craft.

It doesn’t say he’s better than Michael. He’s not. Phil Jackson said Kobe trained harder than MJ, maybe so, but he’s not better.

However, it’s also not an easy comparison, something Kobe told Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“I’ve had to be a point guard and shooting guard,” Bryant said. “I was always very jealous of him having Scottie Pippen. It’s much more frustrating for a natural scorer to wear both hats. In our games and our development, I’ve had to play more of point guard role, particularly in those first three championships with Shaq, which is not a natural thing for me.”

We as fans always want to compare and rank — was Shaq better than Kareem, or Wilt, or Bill Russell? It’s arbitrary and ultimately moot, but it’s part of the fun of talking and enjoying sports (and it’s just human nature to rank things).

But sometimes we need to put that aside and just savor the great things we do get to witness. Kobe is one of the games all-time great players, a guy with impeccable footwork, a great basketball IQ, a gift for getting to his spots on the floor, and a guy who worked as hard as anyone ever has in the game to polish his craft. He shoots a lot, but he’s still someone you have to watch, even now.

As Kobe passes MJ we should just celebrate that and what Kobe Bryant has given us over the years. We’re going to miss him when he’s gone.

PBT Extra: Talking mess that is New York basketball

New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers
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The Brooklyn Nets are an 8-12 mess, an underachieving team that has put its biggest names — Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson — out there on the trade block.

And they are still in a way better spot than the Knicks.

New York basketball is an embarrassment and it’s what Jenna Corrado and I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. In New York we discuss what Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher should do differently… which frankly isn’t much. They need different players not a different system.

If you’re a Celtics fan and a Comcast Sportsnet New England subscriber who wants to see the Celtics take on the Knicks Friday night, you can catch a live stream by following this link.

Nick Johnson dunks all over Ramon Sessions (VIDEO)

Nick Johnson, Leandro Barbosa
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Nick Johnson has some hops.

Credit Ramon Sessions for doing a good job of getting back in transition for the Kings and not just giving James Harden two easy points in transition. But he never saw Nick Johnson coming. And he ends up in a poster for it.

Harden had the last laugh, he tied the game with a three to send it to overtime, scored the first 10 points for the Rockets in the extra time, and Houston won. again

Warriors GM confirms team has reached out to Ray Allen’s agent

2014 NBA Finals - Game Four
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Ray Allen is still sitting on the sidelines.

Arguably the greatest three point shooter the game has ever seen, he could still help the right team in a limited role, and the conventional wisdom around the league he will come back after the first of the year, mostly likely to play again with LeBron James. Just now in Cleveland’s wine and gold.

But the Warriors want in. Because you can never have enough three-point shooting. Warriors GM Bob Meyers confirmed Golden State’s interest, reports CSNBayArea.com.

Warriors GM Bob Myers told 95.7 FM The Game on Thursday afternoon that the club has in fact reached out to Allen’s representatives but said, “it’s uncertain as to what Ray wants to do.”

“Here’s the problem,” Myers explained. “We don’t have enough minutes as it is so it’s just a question of chemistry.”

Allen, a free agent, likely would have returned to Miami had LeBron come back, that’s where Allen lives with his family and he likes the lifestyle in South Beach. But he could be tempted back for half a season with a team that could use him at the two off the bench.

As Meyers said, those minutes are limited in Golden State, in large part because they want Klay Thompson on the court. In Cleveland, Shawn Marion starts at the two and Dion Waiters comes off the bench, you could find room for Allen in there.

There will be other teams interested as well.

It’s something to watch after the calendar turns.

PBT’s Thursday night NBA Winners/Losers: James Harden, Kevin Durant playing like MVPs

James Harden, Patrick Beverly
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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while thinking a “21 Jump Street”/”Men in Black” crossover movie is about the worst idea ever

source:  James Harden. On the second night of a back-to-back in a tight game, he simply took over. He owned it. Which is what the very best do. Harden scored 13 straight points at the end of regulation and during the Rockets 10-1 run to start overtime. He had 44 points on 32 shots overall on the night (he scored 43 percent of the Rockets points when he was on the court) plus he dished out eight assists. The Rockets are now 8-3 since Dwight Howard went down and in that time Harden is averaging 29.1 points a game, is shooting 39 percent from three, plus is dishing out 6.1 assist and pulling down 6 rebounds a game. Simply put, James Harden is playing like an MVP. The Rockets’ defense is improved this season, but Harden is carrying their offense right now.

source:  Russell Westbrook. His teammate Kevin Durant came out trying to be a playmaker. The rest of his Thunder teammates seemed groggy, like they just woke from a nap. Not Russell Westbrook. He came out looking to make a statement to everyone who said Kyrie Irving is the better point guard. Westbrook had 10 points in the first quarter on his way to 23 in the game. He played angry and was a force. For most of the game he was the Thunder’s best player. Plus he did this:

source:  Kevin Durant. The Cavaliers made this a game late on the road, they battled and got within four points and 1:45 left. Then Durant did Durant things. A dunk (after Kyrie Irving gambled on a steal), then the Nowitzkiesque step-back, then the layup in traffic. With the game on the line he looked every bit the MVP again and scored the team’s final eight points to secure the win.

source:  Cavaliers fans. Why? Because they still get to see Kyrie Irving playing basketball. There was a moment not long before halftime when Irving went up to block a Westbrook jumper, the two hit knee-to-knee, then Irving came down awkwardly. It was the kind of landing that can mean all sorts of torn things. Irving stayed on the ground for a while then went straight to the locker room with help. It looked bad. Then came word it was just a contusion, Irving warmed up for the second half and played the entire third quarter. And Cavaliers fans could exhale.